Saturday, May 12, 2007

Prairie Man John Blakeman Continues the Discussion about Lawns

White-crowned Sarrow, and the grass just keeps getting longer.
From John Blakeman: He doesn't just do Red-tails, he's a prairie expert as well.

"Those interested in reducing mowed lawn expanses, but for any number of good reasons don't wish to have 6-8 ft prairie grasses dominating an unmowed landscape, the grasses to plant are little bluestem and sideoats gramma. Both are beautiful grasses, but sideoats gramma prefers alkaline soils. Little bluestem will grow in almost all soils, although it prefers or grows best in sands and silts and loams. But I've got it growing here beautifully in clay. It just takes longer.

A mid-height prairie dominated by little bluestem and sideoats gramma, instead of the common tallgrasses such as big bluestem and Indiangrass, can be downright beautiful.

Professionally, I do a lot of little bluestem plantings, often in monocultures (which are no different from true monocultures except that LBS plots need no water, pesticides, or fertilizers -- and are far more beautiful year round).

Let me know if you'd like some JPEG photos illustrating this.

As it happens, the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio just ran an article on me and my seed supplier, extolling the virtues of prairie over lawn. It's at:

This business of replacing acres of mowed turf with prairie islands is beginning to catch on in northern Ohio. I'm working with faculty and a biology class at Northwest State Community College near Archbold, Ohio, where native landscaping is incrementally being installed, starting with two small, demonstration little bluestem and switchgrass plots. Eventually, a significant portion of the campus may be prairie islands, significantly reducing mowing costs and aesthetically enhancing the entire campus setting.

I really appreciate your views on dandelions and the like. I mowed my lawn for the first time yesterday, as the grass was a bit high, in the six-inch range. But the gorgeous profusion of dandelions contravened any mowing for the last two weeks.

Fortunately, my wife Sarah loves our "biodiverse" lawn, filled with dandelions, violets, creeping charlie, and any number of other herbaceous species. Sarah claims that if these species were rare or difficult to grow, the conventional world would be striving for the floral beauty of our lawn.

Last week, I burned off my front yard, an acre or so of tallgrass prairie, along with the acre behind the mowed backyard. Both areas are now charcoal black from the ash. But phoenix-like, the first green shoots of Indiangrass are starting to emerge. By the weekend next, my hills will be a thriving natural green. The prairie season is beginning again."

Donegal Browne

No comments: